To be sure, everyone wants to belong and be included. Who hasn’t wanted to be picked for a certain team on the playground as a kid? Who hasn’t wanted to be part of the honor role designed to celebrate those with good grades? Who hasn’t wanted to be chosen for entrance into the neighborhood club and its clubhouse with all of its privileges? Who hasn’t wanted to be selected for inclusion in one group or another? It may seem that there are arguments to the contrary but, in fact, the story of the hermit who has shunned all of society to live off-grid in solitude from the rest of the world is the exception to the rule and not the norm. Even for them, I would bet that there was a time when they desired to be included. And of course, you have the introverts of society who need times of quiet and solitude to recharge, but this in no way negates the fact that they, too, want to be included. It is a fundamental part of human nature, seen from the very early stages of life, to want and desire to be included.
For some, the desire to be included, yet finding themselves excluded, can be terribly devastating. This places most exclusives in one of two positions. Either they can work hard to become the type of person that is selected so they can be placed within the group or they can simply find another group that is a better fit for their personality. These are the two rational responses to rejection in these terms. But in today’s culture, where nothing is rational anymore, there has been a third option that has become quite popular. This third option supports the notion that instead of adjusting your life to meet the criteria for inclusion, one can simply gain power and influence so that they can in turn leverage their position to force their way into the club. We have seen this time and time again. It has happened to the Boy Scouts of America. It has happened in colleges and schools. It has happened at public restrooms. And it is happening to the church.
The ironic dynamic about forceful inclusivism is that once influence has successfully leveraged its way into a particular group, that group will find themselves no longer carrying the distinctions it originally held. For instance, a women’s restroom that now includes males identifying as women to have access to a bathroom without urinals is no longer a women’s restroom…it is now a unisex restroom. A scouting club with a male distinctive that now includes girls is no longer a boys club teaching boys how to be men but is a club for children who want to remain as children.
While this principle certainly holds true in the secular world, where it will falter and the juggernaut will be stopped cold is in the Church. And what I mean by the “Church” (capital “C”), is the true representation of the kingdom established by God through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit, which has been revealed in the Lord’s written Word and will endure for all of eternity. This Church will stand firm while many claiming identity with the church will fall away as they cave to inclusive behaviors that redefine God’s institution as something other than what God intended. The Church has always survived difficult times, such as times of persecution, heresy, apathy, ignorance, and the seizure of property and possessions. The reason for this survival is because the Church of God is holy. It has been “set apart” to God, by God, through God, and for God.
The church is capitulating at a breakneck speed in modern times to those who have leveraged their position to bring about inclusivity. The devil has placed the fear of him in the hearts of church leaders whereby the perceived threat is that an organization will lose its “relevance” and “coolness” if it doesn’t cave to society’s demand for it to be inclusive. This goes way beyond just the LGBTQABCD… dysphoria. While inclusivism is most prominently seen in this group’s demand for it at every level, including at the level of the church, its influence is also seen in religious organizations that fear losing attendance because of its biblical stances. Therefore, the lines of truth are softened to become more appealing to the world and its ways. No, more accurately, those lines haven’t merely been softened, they have been in some instances, torn down, burnt to a crisp, their ashes scattered, and any remembrance of them emphatically denied. It leaves one wondering, wouldn’t it just be better, if an organization was going to die, to die in its integrity than to surrender its values and die anyway?
But as always, when the enemies are this loud and irrational, it is imperative that we turn to Scripture and the words of the Lord to have our compass reset for guidance and strength.
May we be reminded that Jesus described the kingdom of God in very exclusive terms. The reason He did this wasn’t because God desires to keep people out of His kingdom, but rather because the logistics of identifying with His kingdom are very, very difficult. In fact, because of sin, the entrance into the kingdom is impossible any way other than the exclusive claims Jesus provides. Therefore, though God desires for none to perish, He also points out that only if a person repents and changes direction will they gain entrance into His fellowship. Jesus describes this most important doctrine in very practical, easy to understand pictures. I have provided four.
As Jesus was one day passing through the region of Galilee from one village to the next, He was asked by someone, “Lord, are there only just a few who are being saved?” This afforded the Lord an opportunity to teach about the exclusivity of the kingdom and salvation by way of the analogy of a door (Luke 13:22-30). Jesus explained that the one who is wise and desires to be saved will strive to enter through the narrow door. He warns, don’t be like the many who will fail to be diligent in this striving because the master of the house is coming, When he arrives, he is going to shut the door, leaving many outside wondering what happened. Even though they will respond with shouts of, “Lord, Lord!” their entrance into the house will be prevented because they failed to enter through the door that had been previously opened to them. The result will be weeping and gnashing of teeth as those who have failed to enter watch those who did enter eating with the Lord of the house.
Again, Jesus explains from the analogy of a big dinner party in which many were invited to come (Luke 14:16-24). Unfortunately, many who were invited refused the invitation with such excuses as, “I need to go look at the new piece of land I purchased” or, “I just got a new team of oxen that I want to try out” or, “I have a wife and am unable to attend.” Obviously, the man throwing the party was upset and angry at the disregard for his invitation. In his judgment, he declares that none of those who were invited shall taste the dinner that was prepared.
In another dinner parable about the exclusiveness of the kingdom, Jesus explains that a great feast and party had been planned by a king because his son was getting married (Matthew 22:1-14). In much the same way, many of those who were invited refused to come because it says they were unworthy. But despite the rejection by so many, some had indeed shown up. As the king looked over the dinner guests, he noticed a person who was in attendance that wasn’t dressed properly. So the king asked him, “Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes.” The man was speechless and didn’t have an answer. Therefore, the king had the man thrown out of the wedding party, to a place where there was weeping and gnashing of teeth, because he lacked the proper clothing.
One more illustration explaining the exclusivity of the kingdom is seen through a fourth parable taught by Jesus. This time, there are ten virgins who are part of the wedding party and they were tasked with the job of lighting the way for the bridegroom with their oil-filled lamps (Matthew 25:1-14). It states that five of these virgins were foolish and did not bring any extra oil except for what was already in their lamps. In a worse case scenario, the bridegroom was delayed and their oil was used up as they waited for him. But then, all of a sudden, about midnight, there was a shout that the bridegroom had arrived! It was then discovered that the five foolish virgins had run out of oil. So they left their post to go buy some more oil. As a result, they were gone and missed being included in the wedding march as it proceeded into the wedding feast. The doors were shut and no one else was permitted inside, including the five foolish virgins as they returned with their oil. As they knocked on the door, they shouted, “Lord, Lord, open up to us.” But his response was, “I don’t know you.”
The Church has always survived difficult times, such as times of persecution, heresy, apathy, ignorance, and the seizure of property and possessions. The reason for this survival is because the Church of God is holy. It has been “set apart” to God, by God, through God, and for God.
While the nations and the peoples rage, demanding that their sin, their immorality, their impurity be included and accepted by the Church, Jesus has drawn a clear line in the sand for all to see. It isn’t the world’s terms that define the Church, it is Jesus Christ. The Church is exclusive. The Church is holy. It can only be accessed by faith in Jesus Christ as one diligently lays down their own sinful identity. Though the world may fail amidst its demands for inclusivism (and it will, give it time), the Church will prevail. Therefore, may all who will come, come to Jesus on His terms and join the wedding feast.
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Romans 12:2 (NASB)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”
1 Peter 2:9 (NASB)
“The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast.”
Matthew 22:8-9 (NASB)
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
2 Peter 3:9 (NASB)